Tag Archives: historical romance

Read-a-Chapter: HAZARDOUS UNIONS, by Alison Bruce & Kat Flannery

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the Historical Romance, Hazardous Unions, by Alison Bruce & Kat Flannery. Enjoy!

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Hazardous_Union_Front_Cover

Twin sisters separated by war, bound by love…

After the death of their father, twin sisters Maggie and Matty Becker are forced to take positions with officers’ families at a nearby fort. When the southern states secede, the twins are separated, and they find themselves on opposite sides of America’s bloodiest war.

In the south, Maggie travels with the Hamiltons to Bellevue, a plantation in west Tennessee. When Major Hamilton is captured, it is up to Maggie to hold things together and deal with the Union cavalry troop that winters at Bellevue. Racism, politics and a matchmaking stepmother test Maggie’s resourcefulness as she fights for Bellevue, a wounded Confederate officer and the affections of the Union commander.

In the north, Matty discovers an incriminating letter in General Worthington’s office, and soon she is on the run. With no one to turn to for help, she drugs the wealthy Colonel Cole Black and marries him, in hopes of getting the letter to his father, the governor of Michigan. But Cole is not happy about being married, and Matty’s life becomes all about survival.

Two unforgettable stories of courage, strength and honor.

Title: HAZARDOUS UNIONS

Genre: Historical Romance

Authors: Alison Bruce & Kat Flannery

Website: www.alisonbruce.ca & www.katflannery-author.com

Publisher: Imajin Books

Find on AMAZON.

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Maggie

Fall 1862.

The Yankees were coming.

We’d seen the signs days ago. News was, most of west Tennessee had fallen under Union control. Thaddeus scouted them out while hunting rabbits in the brush that bordered the plantation’s cotton fields. We’d prepared as best we could as fast as we could, and now I was waiting for them on the front veranda of Bellevue.

“Why me?”

“Someone has to meet them, Miss Maggie,” Mammy said, setting out tea things as if the neighbors were coming to call. “Mrs. Hamilton hasn’t got your nerve and Miss Patience wouldn’t be a lick of good even if she would come downstairs.”

“I’m just a servant,” I objected half-heartedly.

“Yeah, like Tad here is just a dumb nigger.” Mammy cocked her head to one side and a moment later I heard the faint but shrill whistle of the kettle. She smoothed the skirt of her greying white pinny over her faded grey dress. Eventually, the two garments were going to match. “Watch out for her, boy,” she said, before heading around the corner of the wraparound porch toward the kitchen door.

Only Mammy could get away with calling Thaddeus “boy” or “nigger” without coming under the resolute stare of a man who looked like he could have been carved out of a huge block of obsidian. Mammy was his aunt and had raised him, along with Major Hamilton, from nursery age. The boys had been more like brothers than master and slave, Mammy said, until Master Ned was sent off to West Point to be made an officer and a gentleman. It was hard for me to reconcile her picture of Master Ned with the aloof man who had employed me to take care of his wife.

I was barely sixteen when I was hired by the Captain, now Major Hamilton. Some days I felt that I was twice that age now, instead of just a couple of years older. Today, watching the Union contingent approach, I felt like that frightened girl again. I took small comfort in the pair of pistols hidden in the pockets of my crinoline. Knowing that Thaddeus was watching over me from the shadows, armed to the teeth, was more reassuring.

Half a dozen hard looking men approached the house. Four of them spread out, some facing us, some partly turned to keep an eye on the out buildings. Two of them rode up the path towards the porch. I felt like I was being ringed in by a pack of hungry wolves. The leader of the pack rode up to the bottom of the front steps.

Wolfish was a description that fit him. Hard muscled, wary eyes, shaggy dark hair spiking out from his cap, he looked old with experience and young in years. His uniform had seen better days and his beard was untrimmed, but it appeared that he had made some effort to clean up before approaching the house. That was a good sign.

I had also made an effort for appearances sake. Instead of my usual long braid, I had twisted my blonde hair into knot and allowed tendrils to fall free on either side of my face. I was wearing one of the calico dresses Mrs. Hamilton bought me in St. Louis. She wanted to make it clear that I was no mere servant any more. I was using it today for similar reasons.

“Afternoon, ma’am. I’m Captain Seth Stone. I have a cavalry troop under my command that needs to set up quarters for the winter.”

“I see.” My voice was steady, but I could feel my knees wobble beneath my skirts. “And?”

“And this looks like a good place to stay.”

“How many are you expecting us to accommodate?”

I heard a chuckle from one of his men. It was stifled with a sharp look from the grim-faced sergeant behind the captain.

“Not so many as there should be,” the Captain said, ignoring the interruption. “If you’d oblige me by asking your man to lay down his arms, maybe we can discuss terms.”

Gott hilf mir,” I prayed, but held my ground. “You have your protectors, Captain. I have mine.”

With a hand gesture, he signaled his men and they all dismounted as neatly as if they were on parade. Then he dismounted and held out his reins to the sergeant.

“Thaddeus, would you lead these troopers and their horses to water?”

Thaddeus stepped out of the shadows, empty handed. “Yes, miss.”

The two men passed on the stairs. Thaddeus was significantly taller and broader than the Union officer and was doing his best guard dog imitation, but the Captain didn’t flinch when they passed. He did keep his eye on Thaddeus until he was in the range of his own men. Then he turned his attention back to me and I lifted my head up to make eye-contact. He may not have been as tall as Thaddeus, but he was not a small man and I am on the short side for a woman.

Having asserted his dominance, he backed up a step.

“I understand this is the Hamilton home. Are you Mrs. Hamilton?”

“No, sir. I am Magrethe Becker, Mrs. Hamilton’s companion.”

His eyes widened. “Maybe I should be speaking to the lady of the house.”

“Mrs. Hamilton is indisposed and asked me to…” I stopped, looking for the right word. Meet with him? That sounded too friendly. Deal with him? Almost rude. “Negotiate terms with you.”

He let out a short bark of laughter.

“My terms are simple, Miss Becker. I need to winter seventy men and three officers, plus myself. It’ll be tight, but this place looks like it has enough room with the house and out buildings. We’ll need food and fodder of course. You can either offer, or I will take.”

I shook my head. “No.”

He barked out a longer laugh. “What makes you think you’re in the position to say no?”

“Twelve wounded union soldiers in our care, Captain Stone.”

 

Matty

 

Fort Wayne, Michigan

December 1862

 

What had she done? Matty Becker was going to hell, and there’d be no one to save her. A loud snore echoed from the other room. She peeked around the corner and caught a glimpse of Colonel Black’s stocking feet. She’d burn for sure. She glanced at the paper she held and groaned. She was a horrible, devious, scheming letch. Maggie wouldn’t be pleased. Maggie wasn’t here. Another snore blew into the kitchen and she placed her head onto the table banging her forehead twice. There was no turning back now.

Last night she’d pushed aside her conscience and let fear guide her. For her plan to work, she’d have to throw all sense to the dogs, not that she hadn’t done so already by following through with the blasted thing. She couldn’t fail now. If her family found out what she’d done they’d never forgive her. Worse yet, if Colonel Black found out she’d be locked behind bars, a fate far better than the one that got her in this mess to begin with.

She placed the paper on the table and went into the bedroom. Colonel Black lay on the bed with his clothes stripped off and tossed about the floor. He’d been out for nine hours and would wake any minute. Matty stood, pushed all thoughts of reason from her mind and removed her dress, corset and pantaloons. Her face heated and the room spun. He rolled over and she jumped into the bed next to him, pretending to sleep. She knew the moment he’d woken. The bed stilled and she couldn’t breathe the air was so stiff.

“What the hell?” He sat up and she knew the instant he saw her. “Son of a bitch.”

She felt his nudge once, twice and now a shove almost knocking her from the bed.

“Wake the hell up,” he growled.

She squeezed her eyes closed and willed strength into her soul so she could face the dark Colonel. She rolled over pretending to wipe the sleep from her eyes.

“Who are you?” He placed his head in his hands. She’d bet he had one heck of a headache.

“Your wife,” she said.

“The hell you are.” He shot out of bed without grabbing the sheet, and she averted her eyes.

“Please cover yourself.” She held up the sheet and he ripped it from her hand. “The marriage license is in the kitchen on the table if you do not believe me.”

She watched as he grabbed his head and closed his eyes. The heavy dose of laudanum she’d placed in his drink the night before had done the trick and it wasn’t but a mere suggestion they marry that the Colonel jumped to the challenge. Soon they were standing in the dining room in front of a preacher. Words were spoken—words she thought to say with someone she loved, someone who’d wanted her. Her stomach lurched and her mouth watered with the urge to vomit.

“How did this happen?” he asked sitting on the end of the bed.

“Mrs. Worthington sent me to see if you needed anything.”

“I was drinking.” He looked at her. “I was drunk.”

She shrugged.

He stood holding the sheet tight to his midsection.

She couldn’t help but notice the rippled stomach and defined muscles on his chest.

“We can annul. I had too much to drink. My head wasn’t clear.”

She shook her head.

He frowned.

“We have consummated.” A lie of course but she was desperate.

His mouth fell open. A moment she knew he’d not remember. After the preacher left, she’d taken him to the bedroom where he passed out before hitting the bed.

“Impossible. I’d remember that.”

She shook her head again praying he’d buy the fib.

He pulled on his pants and dress shirt. “I don’t even know you. Why in hell would I marry you?”

“My name is Matty Beck—Black. I was employed with the Worthington’s. You’ve come to dinner several times.”

His brown eyes lit with recognition. “You’re the house maid.”

“Yes.”

“I married a maid?”

The words stung and she turned from him so he wouldn’t see the disappointment upon her face.

“Why would you marry me if I was into the spirits?”

“You seemed fine to me.”

He took a step toward her. “Why would you marry me at all when you don’t even know me?”

She gripped the blanket on the bed. “You…you said kind words, and I…I believed them.

“How desperate are you to marry a stranger?” he yelled. “You found out who my father is. You want money. You tricked me.”

Well, he got the last one right, but the first two irritated her. She was not the kind of person to marry for money. Really, who did he think she was?

“Sorry to disappoint you but I refused my inheritance years ago.”

“If you mean to say that I could not find myself a suitable husband because I am a maid, then you’re wrong.”

“That is exactly what I am saying Miss—”

“Black.”

“The hell it is.”

He went into the kitchen picked up the marriage license and stared at it.

Matty dressed quickly and inched into the room. Confusion pulled at his features and she began to feel sorry for him. This was her fault. She’d planned this. Now she had to continue telling the lie she’d told. She glanced outside and shivered. Boldness, be my tongue. Shakespeare’s words echoed in her mind. It was worth it. She’d been living in fear for a week. Colonel Black had been her saviour, and she risked a life full of love and happiness for this—a lie in which she’d speak for the rest of her life. She swallowed back the lump in her throat and willed the tears not to fall.

“Why can’t I remember?” He glanced at her. “And why in hell would I marry you?”

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Greg Messel’s ‘San Francisco Secrets’ First Chapter Reveal

San Francisco SecretsTitle: San Francisco Secrets
Author: Greg Messel
Format: Paperback, ebook
Length: 405 pages
Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing

Noted novelist and newspaper editor Edgar Watson Howe once said. “A man who can keep a secret may be wise but he is not half as wise as a man with no secrets to keep”

As the spring of 1958 arrives in San Francisco, it seems that baseball player turned private eye, Sam Slater and his fiancée, TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan, are surrounded by people who have secrets.

A prominent doctor, John O’Dell is being blackmailed by someone who has discovered a dark secret from his past. When the private investigator trying to catch the blackmailer is murdered, Dr. O’Dell hires Sam Slater to try to pick up the pieces. Someone is playing for keeps and will do anything to protect their own secrets.

Meanwhile, Amelia begins her new job as an international stewardess which takes her on adventures to New York City, London, Paris and Rome. In hot pursuit is a womanizing older pilot who has his sights set on Amelia.

Their lives get even more complicated when a mysterious woman from Sam’s past returns.

Sam and Amelia’s relationship will be tested as they work together to solve the mystery on the foggy streets of San Francisco.

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CHAPTER 1
THE STASH
March 6, 1958

On a quiet sunny Thursday afternoon, a quaint, little Spanish-style bank on Macarthur Boulevard in Oakland was robbed.

Two career criminals, Lloyd Wells and Doug McAllister, who were down on their luck, were elated as they pulled off a big score and made their getaway towards San Francisco.

The small neighborhood bank, made of white stucco with a red tile roof, had minimal security provided by an ancient bank guard who seemed to be dozing when the robbers stormed in. In the middle of the afternoon, there were just a few old people putting some money in their passbook savings accounts or cashing their Social Security checks.

Wells and McAllister needed this score badly. They planned to grab their loot and head for the Reno area where McAllister had a small rundown house. The score at the bank would set them up for future exploits in Reno.

Wells was anxious to get out of the Bay Area where he had already had several run-ins with the law. The bank robbery went flawlessly. It was over in just a few minutes with the tellers quickly emptying their cash drawers into McAllister’s bag before the thieves fled.

After making a clean getaway from the bank in Oakland, the pair caught the on-ramp to the Bay Bridge and headed for San Francisco. They kept checking their rearview mirror but there was no one in pursuit, even though they expected a lot of heat after the robbery.

McAllister and Wells wanted to get as far away as possible until things cooled down a bit after the heist. Wells had a plan to stash most of the loot from the robbery and then come back later to retrieve it before they permanently relocated to Reno.

McAllister tried to do a quick count of their haul while Wells drove the car cautiously over the bridge into San Francisco. It all happened so quickly inside the bank, but to his astonishment, it looked like they might have gotten away with as much as $70,000.

Wells drove out to Ocean Beach near the Cliff House on the western edge of the city, where he had parked his light-blue and white 1953 Chevy. He pulled the stolen aqua-colored 1954 Ford into the parking lot by the beach.

The men emptied everything out of the Ford. Wells popped the trunk on his Chevy and retrieved a burlap bag. The men put their black masks, hats, gloves, and two bricks into the bag.

They inspected the interior of the stolen car one last time and then locked it. McAllister looked around and then threw the keys to the Ford as far as he could out onto the sand of Ocean Beach. Wells transferred the bag full of money into the Chevy. The two men got into the car and drove away slowly.

They drove north past the Cliff House on the roadway that snaked along the seaside heading toward the Presidio grounds.

“Pull over here,” McAllister said.

Wells complied. McAllister retrieved the burlap bag and walked to the edge of a cliff near China Beach that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. He gave the bag a few swings and then threw it as far as he could off the cliff. McAllister watched the bag create a large splash as it landed in the ocean below.

When McAllister returned to the car, Wells said, “Time to go visit uncle.”

The men then headed to a house on O’Farrell Street in the heart of San Francisco. Wells’ uncle, Andrew Griffiths, was 85 years old and lived in an old Victorian townhouse that appeared frozen in time.

Wells had always been very fond of his uncle, who had raised him after his troubled parents abandoned him. Andrew Griffiths thought of Lloyd Wells as the son he never had, but he knew in his heart that attempts to keep his nephew on the straight-and-narrow were largely in vain. Griffiths had stopped asking Lloyd about his activities. He had come to the sad conclusion that it was best if he didn’t want to know a lot of details about his nephew’s life.

Wells knew that his uncle’s health was beginning to fail and he was spending more and more time in bed. His uncle’s only child was a daughter, Yvonne, who lived in Vacaville near Sacramento.

As the men parked in front of Uncle Andrew’s house, Wells gave final instructions to his partner.

“When we get in there, I’ll go into the back of the house and keep my uncle busy. There are two high-backed overstuffed antique chairs with green upholstery by the front window,” Wells explained. “Take the bank money and stuff it in the bottom of the two chairs. Just take your pocketknife and carefully pry off the covering on the bottom of the chairs. Put the cash inside and reattach the cloth on the bottom of the chairs. Got it?”

“Got it,” McAllister replied.

“Just make sure the covering on the bottom of the chair is securely fastened so the wad of cash stays put. Put the cash in these paper bags and secure it to the frame of the chair.

“Understand?”

“Yeah, no sweat,” McAllister said.

“It’s important that no one suspects that there is anything stashed in the bottom of the chairs. Those chairs haven’t been moved for a hundred years, so it’s the perfect place to hide our money until we come back to San Francisco and get it. I just want to make sure no one gets wise about what’s in those chairs.”

“Okay. You’re sure you can keep your uncle occupied and he won’t hear me tinkering with the chairs?”

“You could run a herd of cattle down my uncle’s hallway and he wouldn’t hear it. Just be quick about it and I’ll talk with him. I need to make sure he’s taken care of and I’ll explain that I’ll be out of town for a few weeks.”

“Sounds good. I’ll keep enough cash to get us through while we’re waiting for things to calm down,” McAllister replied.

“Right,” Wells responded. “Let’s get to work.”

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A Conversation with Holly Bush, author of ‘Reconstructing Jackson’

Holly BushHolly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.
Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.

Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, and was the vice-president of her local library board for years. She loves to spend time near the ocean and is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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Reconstructing Jackson 2

Click on cover to purchase

Q: Thank you for this interview, Holly. Can you tell us what your latest
book, Reconstructing Jackson, is all about?

I’d love to and thanks for having me. Reconstructing Jackson is set a few yearsafter the Civil War and follows Confederate veteran, Reed Jackson, as hemoves west to begin again after the devastation of the war.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Reed Jackson is in a wheelchair, having lost part of one leg and the full use
of the other from a war injury. When he arrives home, his father decides
because of his injuries, he is unfit to carry on the Jackson legacy, and deeds
the plantation to Reed’s younger brother. With that deed goes Reed’s fiancé
from a neighboring plantation. Reed’s mother urges him to move to Fenton,
Missouri, where her nephew, Henry Ames’, operates a successful hotel and is
eager to help his cousin get settled in a new town.

Belle Richards is dirt poor farm girl and lifetime resident of Fenton. She
endures an abusive family with one quest in mind – learning how to read.
Circumstances throw Reed and Belle together in a violent fashion.

Beulah Freeman manages The Ames Hotel for Reed’s cousin Henry. She is an
oddity, as a former slave, to be in a position of responsibility, literate and
teaching others to read.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally
from your imagination?

Totally from my imagination!

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do
you discover it as you write?

I do not know the entire plot of the book at the outset, but I do quickly know
the arc or dramatic turn of the book. Mostly, I see characters in my head and
record their actions and write their dialogue. With Reconstructing Jackson,
I saw a man, a young man, in a wheel chair on a dusty train platform, with
his trunk beside him looking around as if thinking about where to go next. I
wondered why such a young man would be in a wheel chair, why no one was at
the station to meet him. Where was he from, where was he going?

Q: Your book is set in Fenton, Missouri. Can you tell us why you chose this
city in particular?

The state of Missouri was the site of battles and guerilla warfare before and
during the war. The Dred Scott case, eventually argued by the Supreme Court,
originated in St. Louis and the state sent money and soldiers to both sides of
the war. This split of sympathies must have resulted in some dramatic and
horrible rifts among families and neighbors, even in the fictional town of
Fenton.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

The time period plays a major part in the development of the story because
while Missouri was an obvious place for violence and tension, these kinds of
stories played out across America as social change was far ahead of general
sentiment.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

Belle is holding a dictionary. She has never seen such a book before in her life
and is overwhelmed when she sees a word she knows. The book is a gift from
Reed.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Reed’s cousin, Henry, visits him his first evening in Fenton.

Henry chuckled. “Turnabout is fair play, I suppose. I tried my hand at

Father’s business for a while. Didn’t care for it much. Had a dream of moving

west. Wanted to watch this country grow. I love it here. I found a beautiful

woman and my life’s work. Oh, I miss my family and what I grew up with, but I

know I would’ve never been happy in Boston.”

Envy of a clear-cut longing and the fulfillment of that goal filled Reed’s

head. Nothing seemed clear for Reed. He was schooled as an attorney, yes,

but had practiced little. Reed certainly missed nothing of his life after the war

began. Had the war not come, things may have been different. He would have

continued on as the second son to a prosperous cotton farmer and would have

managed a great estate’s affairs. But the war had come. Gone were a genteel

existence, his older brother, and Reed’s legs.

Henry corked the brandy and stood. “Mary Ellen told me to keep this

visit short. That you’d be tired. I fear I’ve worn you out more than you already

were.”

“My bed does seem to be calling,” Reed said. “Thank you for the ramp.

An ingenious invention.”

“Mary Ellen and I both would like you to be happy. We have no family

nearby and want you to make your life here,” Henry said. “I know I’ll never

replace your brother, I never had one, of course, but it will be good to know I

have someone to lean on. And that you, too, can count me as family.”

The sincere exposition touched Reed in a way that seemed foreign.

His thoughts of family were as muddy and murky as the bayou, filled with

pride, resentment and the undeniable knowledge that he may have done the

same things under the same circumstances. Maybe, just maybe, his mother’s

encouragement to begin a new life elsewhere came from the heart. And maybe

she was right. He had best try and forget the hurts and the wrongs of the past

and make something of himself in a new land. He had told Henry it was a new

world, and perhaps this was the place for a new beginning.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on
track?

I usually take a break from writing for a few days or weeks. Then I read other
stories or books I’ve written and then I read the story I’m currently working on.
Usually by the time I’m done with the reread, I’m ready to write again.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you
wanted?

Read or write.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

Pride and Prejudice. Then I’d be a genius of subtle character building.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding
getting their books out there?

The publishing industry has changed and many of the barriers to publication
are gone. It is very tempting to self-publish, which has been a wonderful
experience for me and very, very successful so far. But I would caution writers
that while rejection from editors and agents is discouraging, there are usually
other agents to query. Rejection from the public, however, could be a once
and done affair. Make sure your book is ready and has been edited by a
professional before self-publishing.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Holly. We wish you much success!

Thank you for having me!

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Read-a-Chapter: Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the historical fiction, Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush. Enjoy!

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Reconstructing Jackson 2

  • File Size: 321 KB
  • Print Length: 191 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: BookBaby; 1 edition (September 25, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009LMKGUW

1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.

Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.

Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle’s courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.

______________________________________

Chapter One

May 19, 1867

“Need some help, mister?”

“I’ll be fine, thank you,” Reed Jackson said.

The conductor approached through whirls of black smoke and repeated, “Do ya need some help?”

The whistle blew as Reed replied. “I’m a cripple, not deaf, you jackass. I said I’d be fine.”

The conductor squinted through ashed air and hefted himself onto the train’s step. “OK, son,” he shouted.

The train pulled away and Reed struggled to pull his bag on to his lap and wheel himself to the step of the station house. A sign, swinging in the locomotive’s draft, read ‘Fenton, Missouri – Population 6,502.’

“Is there a boy about who can get my trunks to the hotel?” Reed shouted into the dim building. The scrawny station manager shaded his eyes as he stepped into the dirt street.

“Where ya be headin’?” he asked.

“The Ames Hotel,” Reed replied.

Reed contemplated the man who was now rubbing his jaw and eyeing his wheelchair; the last, hopefully, in a long line of nosy, prying half-wits whom Reed had encountered on this tortuous journey. The man knelt down and touched the leather strapping of the wheels.

“Please don’t touch the chair, sir,” Reed said.

He stood, eyes still perusing Reed and his belongings. “In the war?”

“Is there someone able to bring my trunks to the Ames Hotel?” Reed repeated.

“From the sound of that drawl, I’d bet my Helen’s berry pie, you was wearing gray,” the stationmaster added.

The man’s self-righteous smile did nothing to lighten Reed’s mood. He was tired, his leg hurt, and he wanted nothing more than complete and utter silence, followed by a long soak in a tub. But this was to be his new hometown. His fresh start.This imbecile may need his services as an attorney if he killed his pie-making wife, Reed thought.

“I served in the confederacy, sir.”

“Damn. I was right. A Johnny Reb, huh?”

“I consider myself a U.S. citizen,” Reed replied.

“Well, yeah but . . .”

“Excuse me,” Reed said as reached his hands to the wheels of his chair. “I must get to the hotel. I’m expected.”

The stationmaster turned as a man and woman approached. “Reed?” the man called.

“Henry.” Reed recognized his cousin from the remarkable likeness the man had to Reed’s mother. Tall and dark with great smiles marked the Ames family.

Henry clasped Reed’s hand and shook, turning to a petite blond beside him. “Reed, this is my wife, Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen, this is my cousin, Reed Jackson.”

“Pleasure to meet you, sir. How was your trip?” she shouted over the clang, roar and bedlam of the station.

Mary Ellen Ames wore an expensive, up-to-date gown and filled it most attractively, Reed noticed. He smiled his best Southern charm and held her dainty, gloved hand in his. “Dirty, hot and long.”

She laughed and turned to her husband. “Our traveler is weary, Henry. Let’s get him out of the sun and the dust.”

Reed was thankful this woman, his hostess was gracious and mannerly. So unlike the passengers he’d been forced to sit beside and occasionally converse with. He was sick of boorish behavior and basked in the delightful smile Henry’s wife bestowed upon him. Henry must have married as well as he possible could have in this God-forsaken town. His mother had told him that her brother’s son had come west before the war, married and was a successful businessman. She apparently was right.

Reed looked at the stationmaster as he listened in on their conversation. “I was trying to hire someone to bring my trunks to the hotel when you came.”

“Oh, yes siree, sir. Right away, sir.”

“Thank you.” Reed wheeled himself along beside Henry and Mary Ellen as they walked away from the station. As the roar of travel sounds dimmed, Reed turned to his cousin. “So what is life like here in the wild West?”

Henry stopped, looked at Reed’s serious face and leaned back, laughing. “The wild West? Fenton is hardly wild, Reed.”

“Well, we are west of the Mississippi, Henry? I was raised to believe civilization begins in the heart of the South,” Reed said and smiled.

“You’re teasing, Mr. Jackson. Why we have churches, shops, theatres, and even a small hospital. The fine ladies of the Aid Society consider Fenton a bastion of civilization.”

Reed regarded her sincere countenance. “Why, of course, Mrs. Ames. Forgive me.”

“Please call me Mary Ellen. We are related, and I want you to feel comfortable in your new home.”

“I would be honored if you would call me Reed or Jackson, in kind,” he replied.

The streets of Fenton were busy with wagons, horses and people. He watched as he wheeled and found some staring strangely at him, many on their own way, paying him no mind. He dodged horses’ hooves, children running and the hems of calico dresses.

“The sidewalk here in the main part of town runs right in front of the hotel. Let me get you up the first step,” Henry said, taking the handles behind Reed’s chair and turning him around.

It was humiliating to depend so entirely on others. Strangers, Reed didn’t mind, but the thought of a relative helping him merely negotiate the street riled him.

“I’m fine, now. Which way are we headed?” Reed said and caught an embarrassed glance from husband to wife.

Mary Ellen Ames motioned forward.

Reed pardoned himself many times on the narrow sidewalk. He passed the Fenton National Bank and a dreary theatre beside it and waited for Henry to move a pickle barrel a few inches back in front of the general store.

Mary Ellen turned onto a wooden sidewalk lined with flowers.  “Here we are.”

The Ames Hotel was indeed grand, yet to Reed’s thoughts, homey. A wide porch held wicker furniture and guests reclined and chatted there. Reed looked up at the large brick building, seeing three floors, curtains blowing softly out of tall windows. White gingerbread trim edged the porch pillars and roof. His gaze fell to six wide wooden steps, their backs white, the footfalls, forest green.

“You’ve done well for yourself, cousin. A very inviting hotel and busy from the looks of things,” Reed said.

Henry put his arm around his wife and looked up to the building. “We’ve been very fortunate.”

The couple’s eyes met, and Reed felt the intensity from feet away. They stared at each other, glowing, and Mary Ellen’s hand raised to her husband’s chest. This must be quite an accomplishment out here in the prairie; they rightly deserved to be proud, Reed thought.

Henry motioned Reed to follow him around the side of the hotel. A swing under two shade trees held a mother reading to a child. Pots of flowers lined the walk until Henry came to a gate. “We use this entrance, Reed. Rarely use the front. I’ve lowered the latch so you can come and go as you please.”

Reed followed his cousin and his wife through the gate. The back of the hotel was a sea of activity. Sheets hung in the breeze near a huge pot. Two women, their hair held back with red kerchiefs, straightening from their stirring, turned and stared. A round man in white carrying dead chickens,emerged from a shed and stopped abruptly. An old man painting a fence halted his brush, mid-stroke. He sat his bucket down, pulled a paint-stained rag from his pocket to wipe his hands and hobbled in Reed’s direction.

“Mr. Ames, Mrs. Ames, I sees your company’s here,” the wizened man said.

“Arlo, this is my cousin, Mr. Jackson,” Henry said.

“Pleased to be meetin’ ya,” the rough, wrinkled man said and held his hand out to shake.

Reed lifted his hand. “Likewise, I’m sure.”

“Looks like yer chair will fit after all.” The man circled Reed, nodding. “I done worried for no use.”

Reed looked at the man quizzically until Henry motioned to a back porch. The wide steps were partially blocked by a series of elevating ramps. Reed stared. He looked up to his cousin with questions. Reed knew that all in the yard listened intently, but it did not stop his comments.

“Your father’s letters implied that I’d have no trouble getting into the hotel. That a back entrance was level.” He struggled to maintain a polite tone but could not.

Henry rushed forward. “You won’t have any trouble, Reed. Arlo and I built this ramp.”

Reed watched his cousin’s nervous face and hurried gestures. He wheeled himself to the base of the ramp while his audience waited.

“Let’s all get back to work, now,” Mary Ellen said to her employees. “We have a full house.”

Reed wheeled himself up the first ramp, stopped and turned on the landing. The next level appeared steeper and Reed pulled the wheel hard to get some momentum. Near the top, he began to roll backwards. Reed caught himself and concentrated on the last ramp. From the corner of his eye, he saw the laundresses and cook slyly watching his progress.

Arlo however could not restrain himself. “I toldsya, Mr. Ames. We needed another foot to make that second piece not so steep.”

Henry spoke softly. “We couldn’t lengthen the ramp anymore without covering the coal cellar. It’s fine.”

Reed pushed himself up the last ramp and onto the porch.

“Yeeha,” Arlo shouted and threw his hat in the air. “I done told ya it’d work.”

Reed heard Mary Ellen hush the old man and smile approvingly to her husband. She climbed the steps and faced him. “That went well, don’t you think?”

Reed Jackson took a deep breath and nodded cautiously. He had yet to decide if he was insulted or thankful. Reed’s eyes were drawn to a tall Negro woman in the doorway. She wore a black dress with a white scarf at her neck and carried a large, wooden bowl of beans. Their eyes met, and he felt a flash of anger in her stare. The woman looked out over the work in the yard, and Reed noticed a quicker pace from all.

“Beulah, this is my husband’s cousin, Mr. Jackson,” Mary Ellen said.

The woman’s head nodded once, and Reed was surprised when she spoke. A rich cultured baritone met his ears. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Jackson.”

But Reed knew she was anything but pleased. Truthfully, Reed was shocked into silence. He had never imagined his cousin keeping a darkie. His father referred to the Ameses as nigger-loving liberals, Northerners with no sense as to how the southern economy and ways, worked. “Beulah,” Reed said.

“Henry, dear, I saw the guests from San Francisco on the porch. I want to fuss over them a bit,” Mary Ellen said to her husband and turned to Reed. “Do excuse me. Henry will show you your rooms, and I’m sure you two have much to talk about.”

Reed inclined his head. Beulah moved past him, down the steps and into the yard. He heard a laundress reply to her low words. “Yes, Miss Beulah.”

Reed’s eyes and brows rose to his cousin. “Miss Beulah?”

Henry smiled tight-lipped and gestured Reed to follow him into the hotel. He unlocked a door and handed Reed a key. Reed looked around the rooms that were to be his home. The rug was flowered, the walls covered in pale blue paint with two large windows overlooking the side yard that held the porch swing. Reed wheeled himself into the bedroom and the attached bathing room. In the main room a large desk sat between the two windows. Amazingly, someone had remembered to remove the chair. An overstuffed settee faced a small fireplace with flowers gracing the mantle.

“Very nice, Henry,” Reed said as he looked around the room.

“Arlo’s painting book shelves for the corner. I thought you may want to work from here for a while.”

“It seems you’ve thought of everything,” Reed replied. “I thank you.”

Reed watched as his cousin turned away uncomfortably and sat down in the upholstered chair.

“There are some things we need to discuss, Reed.”

“Of course,” Reed said and wheeled closer.

Henry shifted in his seat and leaned his elbows on his knees.

“I fully expect to pay my way, Henry. I wrote your father as much,” Reed said. Perhaps the hotel was not as profitable as his mother claimed. Reed knew that appearances could well be deceiving.

Henry’s hands flew forward, and he grimaced. “The money’s nothing. We’ll come to an agreement.”

Reed waited for the man to continue and wondered what was causing his cousin such distress. Henry and Mary Ellen had offered him a home. If not the money . . .

“It’s about Beulah.”

Reed shrugged, relieved. “Rest assured. I’d never let on to your family that you keep a darkie.”

Henry turned, his eyes glittering. “I don’t keep a ‘darkie,’ Reed. She is an employee.”

Reed sat back in his chair and tilted his head with a smile. “Whatever you want to call it is fine. I understand your reluctance.”

“No, Reed, I don’t think you do. Beulah manages this hotel with Mary Ellen and me. We couldn’t do without her. And she gets paid at the end of each week like the white employees, except more. I know many Southerners came west with their slaves. There are some here in town. Neither seems able to change. Not the white master, nor the Negro slave. And they’ve continued on as before the war, here some two years after. Beulah however is a free woman.”

Reed nodded and lowered his eyes. “I see.”

“Will you, ah . . .will you be comfortable with this?”

Reed wondered whom the man would choose if Reed was, in fact, uncomfortable. The Negress or his own flesh and blood? “It’s a new world, Henry. The choices weren’t mine.”

Henry nodded and sighed. “Damn complicated subject, Reed.”

They sat quietly until Henry stood. “I imagine you’ll want to get settled. I see your trunks being brought around. We eat together at four and feed the guests at five-thirty. Turn left out your door, and you’ll run into our kitchen.”

“Thank you, Henry. And be assured, I don’t plan on being a burden.”

Henry opened the door when someone knocked and motioned the men forward hauling Reed’s luggage. “Yes, bring it right in here.” He turned to Reed with a smile as he stepped through the door. “I can’t imagine you being a burden, Reed. This is your home for as long as you like.”

Reed directed the men carrying his trunks where he wanted them, tipped them and went to the bedroom. Close up to the bed, Reed pulled himself onto the top coverlet. His mangled right leg ached from travel, hoisting himself on and off train cars and in and out of hotel beds. Reed pulled and shifted his leg till it was comfortable. The stub below his left knee followed. His eyes closed, and he listened briefly to the fairy tale the woman read to her child as they sat in the swing near his window. He soon slept.

* * *

Reed’s eyes opened, gritty from sleep and exhaustion. He pulled his gold timepiece from his pocket. Hell’s fire. After four. Reed pulled himself into his chair and went straight to the sink in the bathing room. He washed his hands and face, combed his blond hair and dug through a trunk for a clean shirt. Reed muttered, knowing he was late and cursing these heathens for eating the evening meal in the middle of the day.

Reed struggled to button his jacket and wheeled himself to the kitchen. The sight he beheld stopped him. A large, clean spacious kitchen, humming with aromas from bubbling pots with spices and herbs above, hung to dry on racks. A huge table down the center of the room was covered with a gingham-checked cloth, and every person Reed had seen so far sat around it. Others, he didn’t recognize. Henry sat at one end, Mary Ellen on his right and Beulah at the other end with her back to Reed.

“Apologies for my late arrival,” Reed murmured.

Mary Ellen rose and came to him. “I told Henry I’d bring you a plate tonight. You must be exhausted.”

“I admit I napped. Something smells delicious.”

A young girl, seated beside Beulah, stood. “Mrs. Ames, I got to get home now anyway. Your company can have my seat.”

“Thank you, Constance. Tell your mother I hope she feels better,” Mary Ellen said as she pulled the girl’s chair away. Clean china and a fresh napkin appeared at the now vacant spot.

Reed wheeled himself in and looked around at the curious stares. They employ Negroes, eat in the middle of the day and do so with their employees. He noticed the only person at the table not smiling or eyeing him was the woman to his left. Beulah continued to eat as if he had never entered. Arlo sat on his right and handed Reed a constant flurry of bowls and platters.

“Pickles, Mr. Jackson? Miss Beulah, hand Mr. Jackson the pickles,” the old man said.

She turned to Reed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear Mr. Jackson ask for the pickles.”

“They do look tempting,” Reed said.

Beulah did not move her gaze from her plate. She gently dabbed her mouth as the other diners began to talk again amongst themselves.

Reed looked at her and the plate of dill spears just out of his reach. She nodded regally in conversation to her left.

“Would you pass the pickles?” Reed asked.

“Pardon, Mr. Jackson,” the woman said with a tight smile.

Obviously she had heard. She was less than a foot away from him. Reed smiled and looked down at his plate. He turned to her and spoke clearly, “Miss Beulah, would you please pass the pickles?”

The woman nodded and picked up the plate. “Certainly Mr. Jackson. Do be careful of this dish. It’s one of the good set.”

Reed could not stop a slow smile. Beulah made clear her boundaries over a plate of pickled cucumbers. This adversary may prove a challenge, he thought. “I will be careful, Miss Beulah. My momma says I can be clumsy.” The woman turned back to the laundress on her left.

Reed watched the diners as they stood to leave, one at a time, and carried their dishes and glasses to the wash sink. He laid his napkin down and pushed back from the table, satisfied. His cousin knew how to choose a cook. Reed watched the round man, now fluttering from pot to pan, stirring and shaking.

Arlo stood. “Lets me git that dish for ya, sir.”

“Thank you,” Reed replied, feeling better with a stomach full of food.

It was then he observed his cousin and wife carry their own dirty dishes away. Mary Ellen giggled at something Henry said and Reed saw them smile flirtatiously at each other.

“I’ve got some bookkeeping and such to get done. I’ll bring a brandy by later,” Henry called to him.

“That would be grand,” he replied.

Reed spent the evening filling the chest of drawers and unpacking his things. He placed a picture of his mother and father on the table. Reed stacked books on the huge desk and on the floor beside it. He wrote a short letter to his parents and brother Winston, assuring them he had arrived safely.

Much had been made of his traveling alone, especially as great stretches of the southern tracks were still being repaired. His trip to Missouri had been a tortuous trek with multiple stops and some day or more layovers. His mother was convinced a companion should accompany him, but Winston could not take the time and the plantation’s finances needed no further stretching. He was crippled and he knew he must learn to negotiate his own way without staff or servants. His mother had compromised by making arduous arrangements with hotels and station masters by letter over the course of six months.

“Come in,” he replied to a knock at his door.

“As promised,” Henry said as he came in, bottle and glasses in hand.

“I was hoping you remembered,” Reed said and moved to the small table where Henry was seated and accepted a glass.

“So,” Henry said between sips, “tell me about your family.”

Reed rolled the brandy over his tongue. “What do you want to know?”

“Father said you’d be tight-lipped. Wasn’t trying to be nosy. Just hoping they were in good health and all.”  Henry crossed his legs and looked away.

“Forgive me, cousin. Mother and Father are fine. Winston is well and set to marry in the fall.”

“Sounds like things are getting back to normal. The girl Winston will marry, do you know her?”

Reed smiled and raised his brows. “Quite well.”

“Will they be living at the plantation? Father said your family managed to hang onto it.”

Reed wondered how much his cousin knew. “Father made enough in gold running blockades to pay the taxes and begin again. Winston brought his first crop of cotton in without slave labor.”

“I’m glad your family business survived. I am sorry about you brother Franklin. Terrible loss, a sibling.”

“Thank you,” Reed replied.

The two men sat in companionable silence, listening to the hushed chatter of guests as the hotel quieted for the night.

Henry leaned forward and stared at Reed. “I know I shouldn’t ask. Can’t seem to help myself. But if the plantation survived, why didn’t you take it over rather than a younger brother.” Henry looked at Reed’s stern face and hurried to continue. “None of my business,” Henry said, smiling at Reed, “Anyway, why would a successful lawyer want to plow and sow?”

“How is your family, Henry? Your father’s letters to Mother were always interesting. I would like to meet them.”

Henry chuckled. “Quite an assortment there. Mother and Father are fine. My younger sisters drive my father crazy with a varied group of suitors.” Henry poured another brandy from the crystal decanter and sat back. “Funny we never met. Our families I mean. Your mother and my father corresponded regularly. Father loved getting letters from Aunt Lily.Said she was the pride of the South.”

“Pride of the South,” Reed whispered and sipped.

Henry turned the framed daguerreotype around. “Father said my sister Susan was the spitting image of her. He’s right.”

“How is your father’s business?” Reed asked.

“Doing well. Always be a market for coffee, I imagine.”

“Begs the question, why would a coffee wholesaler’s son, move west and leave a prosperous business behind?” Reed asked over the cut edge of his glass.

Henry chuckled. “Turnabout is fair play, I suppose. I tried my hand at Father’s business for a while.  Didn’t care for it much.Had a dream of moving west.Wanted to watch this country grow. I love it here. I found a beautiful woman and my life’s work. Oh, I miss my family and what I grew up with, but I know I would’ve never been happy in Boston.”

Envy of a clear-cut longing and the fulfillment of that goal filled Reed’s head. Nothing seemed clear for Reed. He was schooled as an attorney, yes, but had practiced little. Reed certainly missed nothing of his life after the war began. Had the war not come, things may have been different. He would have continued on as the second son to a prosperous cotton farmer and would have managed a great estate’s affairs. But the war had come. Gone were a genteel existence, his older brother, and Reed’s legs.

Henry corked the brandy and stood. “Mary Ellen told me to keep this visit short. That you’d be tired. I fear I’ve worn you out more than you already were.”

“My bed does seem to be calling,” Reed said. “Thank you for the ramp. An ingenious invention.”

“Mary Ellen and I both would like you to be happy. We have no family nearby and want you to make your life here,” Henry said. “I know I’ll never replace your brother, I never had one, of course, but it will be good to know I have someone to lean on. And that you, too, can count me as family.”

The sincere exposition touched Reed in a way that seemed foreign. His thoughts of family were as muddy and murky as the bayou, filled with pride, resentment and the undeniable knowledge that he may have done the same things under the same circumstances. Maybe, just maybe, his mother’s encouragement to begin a new life elsewhere came from the heart. And maybe she was right. He had best try and forget the hurts and the wrongs of the past and make something of himself in a new land. He had told Henry it was a new world, and perhaps this was the place for a new beginning.

Reed watched Henry turn the brass door handle. “My brother’s fiancée was to marry me. Her family’s plantation adjoined ours,” Reed said.

Henry turned back with a confused look. “I’m sorry, Reed.” He stood unmoving and smiled wistfully. “Maybe it was for the best. If she loved your brother, you two wouldn’t have been happy.”

“Had nothing to do with love, Henry,” Reed said. “After Franklin was killed and I returned from the war like this,” Reed said with a sweep of hands to his chair, “Father decided that Winston should inherit. That I was not up to the task. Belinda was part and parcel of the deal.”

Henry’s eyes widened. His mouth opened and closed. “Oh.”

Reed watched the man absorb and tackle that bit of Jackson family chicanery. This was the first time Reed had spoken aloud this tale, and it sounded sordid and cold to his own ears. What must this straight-laced Bostonian think, Reed wondered.

“What shit,” Henry said in awe, finally.

Reed laughed. “Well put, cousin. What I think exactly.”

Henry shook his head again and left Reed in his thoughts.

Reed wheeled himself to the window and listened as human sounds faded and a night orchestra began. Crickets chirped and an owl screeched in the distance over the low hum of a faraway piano. Reed smelled rain in the heavy air. He remembered the shocked look on Henry’s face and relived its source. Betrayal, anger and bitter disappointment filled Reed’s head. But he could not hate his father even though he wanted to. Reed knew that forging a new life in the devastated South would require a man fit in all ways. His father bound and determined to resurrect a lost cause with new rules to follow.

His cousin had proven, against all odds in Reed’s mind, to be a man he could like. There was no doubt of the sincere outrage in his eyes. And the straight talk had freed some of Reed’s anger and cleared a space in his mind to look forward and not back.

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Reprinted with permission from Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush. © 2012 by Book Baby

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Character Profile Sheet for Reed Jackson from Holly Bush’s ‘Reconstructing Jackson’

Years ago (and still applies today), the experts were telling fiction writers that in order to really know their main character, they must come up with a character profile sheet for them and definitely applies to all your characters as well.  This is a good practice because once you know all the ins and outs of all your characters, the book flows better and allows the author to get inside the head of each of their characters.

We decided to ask authors if they would like to come up with a character sketch of their main character, throwing in a few unique questions to make it really fun!

Today we have Holly Bush stopping by on her blog tour with a character sketch of her main character, Reed Jackson.  Tomorrow we’ll be hosting Holly with her first chapter and on Thursday, an exclusive interview!  Enjoy!

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Learn more about Reed Jackson!

Reed JacksonName of Character: Reed Jackson

Age: 28

Eye Color: Blue

Hair Color: Brown to blonde

Birthplace: Georgia

Marital Status: Married

Children: None

Place of Residence: Fenton, Missouri

Description of Home: Four room house with a picket fence

Dominant Character Trait: Distrustful

Best Friend: Henry Ames

Enemies and Why: Jed Richards. Jed is Reed’s wife Belle’s brother. Reed marries Belle before Jed can marry her off to a neighbor man and get a horse in return.

Temperament: Brooding

Ambition: To find happiness.

Educational Background: Apprenticed by reading the law.

Philosophy of Life: Kill or be killed.

Bad Habits:Holding a grudge.

Talents: He’s a convincing orator.

Hobby or Hobbies: His dog

Why is Character Likeable? Because he changes and grows.

Favorite Pig Out Food: Whatever his wife makes.

Character Mini-Interview:

Every New Year’s I resolve to: Tell my wife I love her every day.

Nobody knows I am: A war hero.

I wish I could stop:

The worse part of my life is: Being crippled.

I want to teach my children that: They must be true to themselves.

A good time for me is: An evening out with our friends and a trip to the theatre.

The worse advice my father gave me is: The war will be over quickly.

When I feel sorry for myself I: Work with other crippled veterans.

My friends like me because: I’m honest.

My major accomplishment is: Becoming a Judge.

My most humbling experience was: When my wife Belle helped me learn to walk with a wooden leg.

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Holly BushHolly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.
Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.

Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, and was the vice-president of her local library board for years. She loves to spend time near the ocean and is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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Reconstructing Jackson 2Restructuring Jackson Summary:

1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.

Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.

Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle’s courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.

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Book Review: Behind the Columns by Arlette Gaffrey

 

Arlette Gaffrey’s Behind the Columns is a well-written, compelling historical novel about the romance between a young Creole belle and a handsome, charismatic New Yorker.

New Orleans, 1847.

Having lost both her parents at an early age, Désirée Bordeaux lives with her grandfather, a man with a weakness for drink and gambling. When he suddenly dies, Désirée finds herself in a desperate situation as her beloved plantation Chêne Vue must be auctioned off.

Philippe Jaunet, a hateful man–also a heavy drinker and gambler–who used to know her grandfather, is intent on marrying her, getting the plantation for himself and use it to pay his own debts.

To add to her unhappiness, the man she thinks she loves and whom she believes promised her marriage when she was but a child of ten, has married another woman.

Enter handsome and wealthy Lance Van Buren, who immediately is mesmerized by Désirée’s stunning beauty and feisty, proud personality. At first, she despises him, even though he evokes in her the most sensual, unsettling feelings. Then, to her surprise, she discovers that he has won the auction and is the new owner of Chêne Vue. But nothing prepares her for the next shock: he proposes marriage.

Behind the Columns is an entertaining, fast-paced read. Passion and intrigue abound as the novel follows the lives of Désirée and Lance as they marry, move to New York for a while, and have their first child back in New Orleans. Philippe Jaunet remains a villain until the end, haunting Désirée and filling her nights with nightmares. In New York, she must face another villain in the shape of Inga, Lance’s sister in law. Love, passion, lies, jealousy–readers will find their share in this book,and then some.

Gaffrey does an excellent job in bringing the old South and the Creole society to life: the food, the fashion, the way of life, the values and beliefs, etc. There’s also a lot of interesting information about Creole history which I found fascinating. In short, if you love historical Southern romances a la Gone with the Wind, you’ll enjoy Behind the Columns.

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Visit the author’s website.

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Historical Fiction Author Jill Limber: ‘Spend as much time as you can promoting’

Jill LimberA multi-published author and former RWA President, Jill Limber’s latest books are Montana Morning, A Heart That Dares and The Right Track. As a child, some of Jill’s tales got her in trouble, but now she gets paid for them. Residing in San Diego with her husband and a trio of dogs and one very ancient cat, Jill’s favorite pastime is to gather friends and family for good food, conversation and plenty of laughter.

You can visit her website at www.JillLimber.com.

About A Heart That Dares

A Heart That DaresAmanda Giles, an unconventional and free-spirited young artist, has to fulfill a deathbed promise to her brother before she can take up her life as a Bohemian in New York. She finds herself swept up in the perilous life of an undercover espionage agent for the Army of the North with handsome young Army Captain. Daniel McGrath. Daniel knows his preoccupation with the woman posing as his wife puts them both in grave danger, but he finds Amanda has no intention of abandoning their mission. As the danger increases, Daniel’s most vital objective is to secure a future for himself and the woman he loves.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Jill. Can you tell us what your latest book,A Heart That Dares, is all about?

Amanda Giles, an unconventional and free-spirited young artist, has to fulfill a deathbed promise to her brother before she can take up her life as a Bohemian in New York. She finds herself swept up in the perilous life of an undercover espionage agent for the Army of the North with handsome young Army Captain. Daniel McGrath. Daniel knows his preoccupation with the woman posing as his wife puts them both in grave danger, but he finds Amanda has no intention of abandoning their mission. As the danger increases, Daniel’s most vital objective is to secure a future for himself and the woman he loves.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

The main character, Amanda Giles, is a woman ahead of her time. Her plans to work as an artist are interrupted when she is swept up in the American Civil War. She feisty and stubborn and independent. The hero, Daniel McGrath, reluctantly follows orders and works with Amanda, even though he is convinced a spy mission into enemy territory is no place for a gently bred woman. He is strong and steady, where she is impulsive and rash, a perfect match of opposites. The main minor character, a brave run-away slave women named Sylvie and her two children need to be rescued, and Amanda jumps right in.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Totally from imagination. I sometimes use personality traits from people I know, but the characters are totally made up.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

 Definitely, I’m a plotter. I need the structure of a plot to develop a story properly and keep it on track.

Q: Your book is set during the Civil War in various locations in the Confederate States.  Can you tell us why you chose these cities?

For the plot of this book, the two characters needed to travel, and their adventures take them all over the South. I did a lot of research into where the armies were moving, and chose the cities that way.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely. I feel as if the setting was actually almost like another character in the book, totally necessary to the plot.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

 Amanda has been wounded by Rebel raiders and Daniel is racing to get her back to camp and to the doctor before she loses too much blood.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Sure. I always love the first kiss scene in any book. 

“What do you mean, I don’t know how to kiss? How dare you?” Amanda sputtered, twisting away from him.

Daniel tightened his grip. “I mean you don’t know how to kiss the way a husband would kiss you. The way a lover would kiss you.”

Amanda glared at him. His eyes flashed back at her. Then in one swift movement he pulled her hard up against his chest, one arm circling her waist. He tilted her head back and slowly lowered his mouth to hers, staring directly into her eyes.

Amanda swallowed and tried to speak, but for the life of her she didn’t know what she would say even if she could find her voice.

Finally Daniel touched his lips, warm and firm, to hers and Amanda closed her eyes, savoring the feeling. She felt the strength leaving her tingling body and she leaned into Daniel for support.

He licked her upper lip with the tip of his tongue, then gently nibbled on the lower one. She gasped at the sensation, and when her lips parted, he ran his tongue inside her mouth.

Amanda found she couldn’t trust her legs and she swayed. When Daniel pulled away from her, she opened her eyes, but had trouble focusing.

His voice husky, Daniel murmured, “Goodnight Amanda.”

“Goodnight, Daniel,” she whispered as the door closed behind him.

He was right, she thought. She never had really kissed anyone else before.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

No, thankfully. I love to write and because I plot first, the story seems to come easily.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

 I’d do more writing. I find writing is the best part of my day.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

This is a tough question. I suppose if I had to choose, I would say any of the Harry Potter books. Who wouldn’t want the royalties from that?

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

Spend as much time as you can promoting. It is not what comes easily to most writers, but it is so important if you want to sell your work.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Jill.  We wish you much success!

 

 

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